Kids Should Choose If They Want to See Their Grandparents After Divorce

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As the old saying goes, you don’t get to divorce your family. But as a child of divorce (and as a child who dealt with even more serious family issues, including mental illness), I respectfully disagree. Sometimes, kids are better off being separated from certain family members, at least for a time. This separation may include a child’s biological parent and even grandparents.

Let’s start with this Reddit example below:

My girlfriend has 3 young kids 2 boys age 7 and a girl age 6. She has been divorced a couple years now and is moving on with her life the best she can. The kids dad is a stereotypical lame ass that thinks his child support is all the kids ever need. Basically if you ask him if he can help pay for football registration or to go halves on a new bicycle, he just says she is a bad mom for not being able to provide what HIS kids need and he can’t afford to keep sending money for, as he says “the kids.” He claims that because he doesn’t make a lot of money and had expensive car payments and pricy car insurance, he cannot afford to help with the kids more than the courts order. Plus the kids don’t really care for him because they say he lies to them and is mean to them. That’s just what it’s like with him.

My question is with the kids other grandma. They do not live around where the kids live and go to school. My girlfriends mom lives in the same city as the kids other grandma and she has been taking them to visit her when she visits her own mother. Problem is the other grandma makes no effort to see the kids when she brings them to town. My girlfriend always has to being them to her at her expense and she is always very rude to my GF when she shows up with them (says she is looking fatter, has bad clothes, ugly hair, etc). To add insult to injury she often sends them back home with outrageous gifts like goldfish, messy toys, toys made for older kids like puzzle toys you have to build, etc. She even went as far to give them haircuts without asking my GF if it was ok. Should my GF keep bringing them to their other grandmother considering she does not approve of how she is with them or how she treats her?

This is a truly tough situation after divorce that I hope no child ever has to go through. I can also identify because although I had a good relationship with my paternal grandparents after my parents’ divorce, there were many times when I felt that I was not going into a stable situation when I visited my dad on the weekends.

I’ve mentioned before that my dad most likely struggled with mental illness and now seems to have gotten treatment. When I talk to my mom about it, she naturally feels guilty and often wonders if she should have kept us from seeing him or limited visitation on the weekends. Now that I am older, I think she is right. I do know that when I was put in a situation where I was forced to visit a family member, my father, who wasn’t entirely stable, it did irreparable damage to me as a kid.

There were plenty of times when my dad wasn’t mentally or emotionally ready to have us over on the weekend. He never physically abused us, but I believe that he emotionally abused us. I have memories of visiting his house on a weekend, and he would shut himself up in his room and not talk to us for 48 hours or longer. As a kid, I panicked because I couldn’t drive, and I didn’t know who to call. We would just wait for him to “get better” and come out and take us home when the weekend was over. It was terrifying.

Now, I know that my situation was different from the situation with the grandmother described above. I am also not implying that this grandmother is mentally ill, only that she seems not to have the kids’ best interests at heart. What I am saying is this: Kids need to be protected at all costs after a divorce. If the kids are old enough to decide if they want to visit their own father or their paternal grandmother (who appears to have issues), they should be allowed to.

Kids are smart. Kids can sense when something is going on. Kids who feel unsafe in a situation may not tell you unless you ask. This is exactly why kids shouldn’t be forced into potentially unstable visitations after divorce.

(Image: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)


  1. Kelly

    June 2, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    I divorced my family so it is indeed possible. LOL

    I wouldn’t tolerate the nasty grandma in the example. If you can’t even be civil to me then I don’t want you around my children because you’re a piss poor example of a decent human being. That’s really all there is to it.

  2. Guest

    June 2, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Why does this poster continue taking them over there? It doesn’t matter how the person is related, if they are awful people your kids do not need to see them or be near them.

  3. chickadee

    June 2, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I wouldn’t necessarily have gone out of my way to take my daughters to see their paternal grandparents, but since their father did so on his time, it didn’t come up. I don’t believe that the parent has to take the children to visit harmful grandparents, buy if the non-custodial parent does so, and if the custodial parent doesn’t like it, the court battle to prevent it will be epic.

  4. Kay_Sue

    June 2, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I’m torn on this issue. On the one hand, i don’t think kids should be forced to maintain contact with someone that they don’t want to. On the other hand, I do think parents have a responsibility to encourage relationships.

    We live four hundred miles from my stepchildren. My mother in law is in the same city. She’s actually less then five minutes from their home. In the beginning, it was hard on her to go from being allowed to see her grandchildren whenever to not allowed to, because the divorce was messy and the other grandmother was (and is) very territorial. Eventually, it was up to my husband to work something out so that his daughters, who wanted to see his parents, could do so, even when he and I were both working and could only make it up once or twice a year at the most. His daughters’ mother does a better job now, but it was really a pain in the ass for the first few years, especially while he was overseas. He was home for a grand total of 42 days during his nearly three years away. If his mom were denied the chance to see them for that entire time, it would have been exceptionally cruel.

    It’s one of those situations where you have to look at the context, the relationships, the people involved. I think it’s more complicated than simply a yes or no would say.

    • JenH1986

      June 2, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      I think that’s when everyone should act like adults and as long as no one was a harmful grand parent make it work. In that situation, with your husband out of the country and given that you live so far away anyway, I don’t know why the mom wouldn’t allow grandparents to see your stepkids. Even if it’s for 3 hours that’s 3 hours of mom time! But in the case of the reddit poster, I think allowing the kids to contact the grandparents if they want and telling the grandparents we’ll be at x if you want to see them is fair. Going out of one’s way is a bit much for me. But I think if a kid wants a relationship with your exes parents and the ex can’t (out of the country) and the grandparents aren’t jerks then a parent has to suck it up for them and arrange a meeting etc. But if a kid says No way. Then no, we shouldn’t be forcing them.

    • Kay_Sue

      June 2, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      She lives with her parents. She has mom time whenever she wants it.

      I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. It’s one of those situations though where every case is going to be different, though. I think it’s important to balance all of the different viewpoints, and most especially the kids’ voices.

      I definitely think there are instances where cutting a grandparent or grandparents out of a child’s life is called for too. Some people are toxic, period, and no one should be forced to be around them.

    • JenH1986

      June 2, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      Absolutely. I don’t speak to my paternal grandmother because she blamed me for my father’s death. And its definitely a case by case heck even sometimes day by day basis. And man isn’t that the life mom time whenever? What’s that like. I don’t have mom time… And I am not a mom. Lol

    • Kay_Sue

      June 2, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      It’s nice, I’d wager. 😉

      I’ve been pretty blessed familywise, but my best friend’s mom is…a piece of work. I would never blame her (or her husband if they split up) for not going out of their way to maintain that relationship, because that woman is…she’s crazy.

    • JenH1986

      June 3, 2014 at 7:46 am

      If she’s that crazy it might be time to cut them loose now. Raising kids seems so hard in the absolute best of circumstances adding that giant cluster of issues? Yeesh. Plus I always wonder how the child/parent feels. Like do you tell your mom she’s got a head full of cats? Or do you pretend like you’re too busy and that’s why the kids can’t come over?

    • Kay_Sue

      June 3, 2014 at 8:16 am

      They aren’t speaking right now, and her mother didn’t even come to her wedding this spring, so I think it will take an act of enormous proportions to bring them together, even if they have kids. I have no idea how one would handle it. Like, “Hey, Mom, I love you, but you’re absolutely nuts and cuckoo for coco puffs all rolled into one.”

    • SunnyD847

      June 2, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      My brother’s wife was always the one who made sure that his son saw our family and that continued after they divorced. She has always helped him know us and I know my mom/stepdad and dad/stepmom all really appreciated it. Of course, my parents all act like f’n ADULTS and don’t trash talk his mom either.

    • Kay_Sue

      June 2, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Yeah, it’s one of those things that’s just…it’s hard to generalize about, you know? Every situation will be different, and every family is going to have to come to terms with it differently.

    • Guest

      June 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm

      This is specifically why my MIL does a lot of ass kissing of her daughters (mainly) in law. Even though at many points she has hated them and vice versa…her getting along with them has helped her see her grandkids more than if it just depended on her own kids.

  5. SunnyD847

    June 2, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I would tell the grandmother “You don’t really seem interested in seeing the kids. I would like for them to have a relationship with you, but I won’t bring them over unless you initiate a visit.” If she doesn’t call, good riddance.

  6. Momma425

    June 2, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    When my daughter’s dad and I split up, I was over the moon excited about never ever having to see/contact his family ever again. Specifically his step-mother- she treated me terribly, and at one point even e-mailed me and told me that my daughter and I were not part of her family.
    5 years later, I am happy to say that I have not had to see his step-mother once or speak to her. I have made it clear to my ex that I will not speak negatively about his stepmother in front of our daughter, and that he is welcome to bring her to visit his family if he would like. I have also made it well known that while his stepmother is blocked from my phone and e-mail and is not allowed to contact me under any circumstance, his family is welcome to contact me to arrange visits with our daughter. My ex has been good about taking our daughter to visit, and we do our best to switch weekends, or allow extra visitation time to accomidate out of town family members when they are in town on both sides.
    If he were NOT in the picture, I think my rule would stand. I think my daughter would still be entitled to spend time with her grandparents if she chose, but there is no reason why someone who has a history of being nothing but disrespectful to me should be contacting me to arrange those visits.

  7. Katherine Handcock

    June 2, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    I think it’s not so much about divorced families as it is toxic families. I find it difficult to believe the grandparents in the example would have been pleasant to be around even if the marriage was intact. So I think what parents should do doesn’t change whether or not they’re divorced: if the relationships is damaging or toxic, you step away, either bluntly (“We will not see you again until you address X”) or more gently (by just never suggesting a visit, or being busy whenever they suggest one.) But if it’s just a matter of “I don’t want to go because I’ll miss my favourite show” – or, for the divorced parent, “because I feel awkward around my ex’s parents” – I think that’s when you show kids that family does carry some obligations.

  8. C.J.

    June 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    I don’t think kids should be forced to see toxic people even if there isn’t a divorce. We had the opposite problem in our family. My mother in law is the sweetest, most loving, non-judgemental lady I have ever met. When my brother in law and his ex wife divorced she didn’t say anything negative to anyone about her. She was still nice to her and still spoke to her parents. Her parents live in the same town as my mother in law. It hurt her to know that my ex sister in law would bring the kids to town to see her parents and wouldn’t stop in for even a few minutes. Sometimes we would be there for a holiday and if it wasn’t my brother in laws weekend she wouldn’t let them come see us. If it was his weekend he still took them to see her parents. My mother in law would have gladly went to them but she is elderly and doesn’t drive anymore. My mother in law said she would just let them know how much she loved them when she saw them and wait for them to be old enough to come to her themselves. They are grown now and go visit her as much as possible. Through all that my MIL still wouldn’t say anything bad about the kids mother. The only thing she ever said is that she didn’t understand why she couldn’t see the kids more.

  9. Rachel Sea

    June 2, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Will something positive come of the kids having a relationship with this toxic woman? If there are not positives beyond some vague “having a relationship” thing, then cut her off. Her dumb son can bring the kids for a visit if she actually cares.

  10. Heather

    June 2, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Under no law or rule does a parent HAVE to let a kid see a grandparent. I believe I’ve heard of cases of grandparents suing for visitation, but it isn’t a given right of theirs to have access to the minor children that their offspring made. I hate the argument that I’ve heard that it’s better for the child to know them than to not. Umm, why? Why subject your kids to someone who spews hate and malcontent in their direction every chance they get?

    • brebay

      June 2, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Some states still have these laws on the books, but the Supreme Court has made them much more difficulty to enforce and they nearly always lose on appeal (The SCOTUS case is Troxel v. Granville if you’re into reading that kind of thing.) Generally, parents have a constitutionally protected right to parental decision-making, which includes deciding where can be and when.

    • Heather

      June 2, 2014 at 8:26 pm

      Thank you for the insight on that! I knew I’d heard of it when my sister was getting divorced and custody was going on, but I didn’t really know the specifics.

    • 2Well

      June 3, 2014 at 2:38 am

      To be fair, even in that case the grandparents were still allowed visitation, just not the amount they wanted. Parents had a right to decide the amount of visitation, but grandparents still had minimal rights.

    • brebay

      June 3, 2014 at 3:46 am

      Yes, and what I said was that they reversed the lower court’s ruling, which they did.

  11. Jessifer

    June 2, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    I can see both sides of the issue. If the grandparents are jerks and feel entitled, like the ones described above, then no. If they are decent people, then I don’t see the harm. I have a friend who had a daughter with a guy that ended up being a deadbeat dad – didn’t go see the baby when she was born, never sent a penny to help out. His family, however, thinks what he did is totally wrong and reprehensible, and have wanted to be part of her daughter’s life from day one. My friend has managed to carry on a very healthy relationship with her ex’s mother and sisters – they treat her as part of the family. She sends them pictures on a regular basis, have regular video chats over Skype, and have even visited each other for a few weeks at a time. I think it’s wonderful that they have worked it out among themselves, despite the ex not being in the picture.

  12. brebay

    June 2, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    My friend went rounds with her MIL over this, even though the divorce was amicable. Grandma was used to having every Sunday with the kids, and mom and dad agreed to joint custody, and she stopped sending the kids on her Sundays. MIL flipped, but my friend’s reasoning was: Look, I just lost HALF of MY child’s lives for the rest of their childhoods, it’s a different ball game now. Each parent gave up half, why should grandma still get the same deal. You’re ex-hubs’ mom, you can see them on his time, which makes sense to me. It’s different when your kids aren’t there all the time, you’re more selective with losing any more time with them.

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